2013 Will Be a Decisive Year for Palestinians

Article Summary
Hani al-Masri discusses the consequences of developments in Iraq, Syria and the region for Palestinians. 

There are some indications that 2013 might be a decisive year for Palestine and the Arab world in several regards. This year, the fate of “the peace process,” national reconciliation, the Palestinian Authority, the Syrian situation and the Iranian nuclear file will all be determined.

We begin with a question: Will the New Year revive the “peace process” or will it declare this process officially dead and buried? At the onset of last year, it was more likely that the peace process would die, based on the hopes created by the Arab Spring, especially after the quick collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The latter represented a strategic treasure for Israel, and consequently, huge pressure was put on the Palestinians to keep them under the grip of the “peace process.” Then, there was hope that the Arab revolutions would lead to opening a new political pathway capable of fulfilling national goals.

When the Arab Spring first took off, it offered an opportunity to get rid of the path followed by Palestine and the Arab world for over 20 years. Yet, the opportunity could be missed with the fate that the Arab Spring might face in the way of the rise of moderate political Islam, which until now has chosen to seek control domestically and to ally with the United States (and consequently Israel) on the outside in order to gain the latter’s support in order to bridge the gap in the region.

With this new year, there is the possibility of resuming negotiations — despite the different parties, goals and interests — on the condition that they are Arab-Israeli negotiations this time, to provide Arab coverage for the coming concessions. It is important for the negotiations to “target ending the occupation in any way and implementing what hasn’t been implemented of [UN Security Council] Resolution 242,” as Nabil al-Arabi said in his recent visit to Ramallah. Consequently, concerns are growing regarding the adoption of the Jordanian option, which emerged just after the Palestinian state received its observer status. Talk about confederalism is back on the table, and so is talk about several initiatives to resume negotiations after the Israeli elections, under the illusion that the American administration in Obama’s second term will be more ready to impose an armed settlement through its alliance with the rising political Islam in the region.

However, this overlooks Israel’s growing extremism and stubbornness and its refusal to participate in any serious negotiations, while it incessantly imposes its preferred solutions and impedes any form of final or transitional solution that guarantees a minimum of Palestinian rights, demands and interests. Needless to say, Israel is not even cooperating with trust-building steps, such as stopping settlement building, releasing detainees and improving economic life, something that it constantly emphasizes yet doesn’t help in achieving.

There is a tangible possibility that reconciliation will be tactically set in motion this year because of a need for Arabs and Egyptians to impose security and stability and for the sake of disputing Palestinian parties, each for its own reasons. However, the division won’t end and national unity won’t be regained because there are Palestinian, Arab, regional and international (as well as Israeli, above all) reasons, obstacles and impediments preventing a major breakthrough in the reconciliation file.

As for the Palestinian Authority, it will face huge shocks this year as it tries to fully tame Palestinian command. The paradox lies in the fact that the authority was supposed to become a state after the UN resolution. However, it is faced with two alternatives: to make way for the Jordanian option — without Jerusalem, the refugees or Israel withdrawing to the borders of '67 — or to accept a state with temporary borders. Either way, the Palestinian cause will be completely liquidated.

The revolutions were expected to at least freeze the Camp David Accords, because political Islam groups — especially the Muslim Brotherhood — considered this agreement to be national and religious treason. They have always demanded its abolition, so it was strange that they declared their commitment to the agreement after they won the elections, without so much as asking that it be amended.

Egypt is neither expected nor asked to declare war on Israel immediately after the revolution, or to cancel the Camp David Accords. However, it is certainly expected not to follow in the footsteps of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, and not to consider the appeasement of Israel and America as a priority, even under the pretext of political and financial need and international legitimacy to face the economic, political and security situation during the post-revolution transitional phase.

Of course, the current political situation in Egypt may not represent an end to the discussion, and we might witness a change because the rulers of Washington and Tel Aviv will seek to control the Muslim Brothers completely. Such a course of events could lead to their insurgence or the insurgence of some of their constituents, especially given the presence of a huge and expandable internal opposition to their rule. A similar reaction was seen after the constitutional declaration last November, despite the constitution being ratified by a majority of voters in a referendum, in the absence of a national consensus. This is also in light of the Brotherhood’s decreasing popularity, as more people from the so-called “couch party” participate in the Egyptian opposition.

The fate of the Palestinian cause and of the Arab region as a whole depends on what will happen throughout this year and on the answers to the following questions:

Will the Egyptian revolution achieve its goals through the establishment of a multilateral democratic regime, or will it be defeated through the rise of a dictatorship under the veil of democracy?

Will Palestinian division end on the basis of a true democratic partnership and of a program of shared interests or will the status quo persist?

Where will the events in Syria end up? Will the chaos, civil war and division continue, or will a political solution be reached that protects what is left of Syria, paves the way for change and fulfills the Syrian people’s desire for freedom, democracy, dignity and national independence?

How will the developments of the Iranian issue unfold? Will a regional war break out, with its declared goal being the slowing of the Iranian nuclear program and its real goal being the repartition of the region among the Western countries and their old and new allies, in light of the decline of America’s role in the region and in the world?

There is a heated race to share the region and deal with it as a sick man, and to abort the Arab revolutions and obstruct their repercussions. The aim is to prevent them from achieving their Arab ambitions and interests in a way that guarantees the “Arab rise” and the dismissal of the infiltration of emerging and challenging regional and international forces — especially Russia, China and Iran — in the absence of an Arab project and within a scheme to keep the region under the mercy of dependency, division, poverty and underdevelopment and to divide a unified Arab country based on religion, ethnicity and national affiliations. This is what happened in Iraq and Sudan, and it is the intended plan for Syria and the remaining Arab countries.

Everything that has happened has taken place in the context of prompt endeavors to transform the conflict in the region, from a conflict for freedom, national independence, dignity, justice, development and democracy — as well as the subsequent conflict against all forms of neo-colonialism, occupation, segregation, exploitation and dependency — to a conflict between Arabs and Iranians, Sunnis and Shiites, moderate Islam and extreme Islam and secularism and sectarianism. The establishment of a direct or indirect Western-American-Israeli alliance with the Arabs against Iran is also in the plan.

The developments in this regard — among others — stirred the concerns of some “moderation axis” parties, which fear the growing power of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and their coalition with the U.S., which might lead to the wave of change spreading into the Gulf countries, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco. That’s why we noticed increasing Gulf support for the Salafists and forces opposing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria and other countries, to face the American, Qatari and Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood after it came to power in several countries, most notably Egypt. The persistence of this trend might give rise to another Sunni alliance that does not consider Iran to be the sole or most dangerous enemy.

At this level, we cannot make conclusions regarding this year’s events without knowing what will happen with the Iranian file. Will there be war or not?

A war on Iran would not be easy and its results are not predictable, whether the US participates alongside Israel or not. Some Israeli circles — headed by Netanyahu — are trying to imagine the latter situation. The issue is not in the hands of Israel alone, as it claims. Perhaps the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza and the resulting Israeli defeat made the rulers in Tel Aviv and their protectors in Washington more realistic. If Israel failed to defeat Gaza on its own, how can it defeat Iran, which is backed by at least half of Iraq and by the missiles of Hezbollah?

The Iranian file might stay as it is, an American deal with Tehran might be concluded to divide the region or a war might break out as the possibility of such a deal decreases. However, the latter is unlikely since the expenses of war are huge and its results are unknown and unguaranteed. Meanwhile, a possible deal or the persistence of the status quo remains an option in anticipation of an internal collapse in Iran.

Found in: security, palestinian authority, palestinian, israeli security, israel, human rights, hamas

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